“Propaganda, to be effective, must be believed. To be believed, it must be credible. To be credible, it must be true.” So said Hubert H Humphrey, who served as US vice president under Lyndon B Johnson.
I beg to differ. It is sufficient for it to be believed to be true. One of the most infamous propagandists in history agrees. Adolf Hitler once noted that: “Propaganda must not serve the truth, especially insofar as it might bring out something favourable for the opponent.”
To prevent the risk that propaganda is shown not to be true, a master propagandist must suppress this fact. That is why Hitler established the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels, to govern the press and silence the truth.
To be fair to Humphrey, American vice presidents cannot suppress the media, because of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, so in his country, the actual truth of propaganda is more important than it was for Hitler.
In any case, showing a phrase to be false should be sufficient to debunk it as empty rhetoric and political propaganda.
Rare, however, is the outcry when ANCYL president Julius Malema uses the phrase “economic freedom”. Some even see his use of it as a legitimate disagreement with those who have advocated economic freedom all along.
Jack Bloom, the DA leader in the Gauteng, who penned a column calling him out, is the exception that proves the rule.
This is dangerous. As Hitler's nemesis, Winston S Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
Let's grant Malema the following, from his “Economic freedom in our time” speech delivered at Wits University in August: “We did not fight for blue lights. We did not fight for ministerial posts. We fought to bring bread to the table. And once [sic] we fail to bring bread to the table, the struggle is not over.”
He might sound awfully hypocritical when he says this, but he was careful to remove his Breitling watch first, and the sentiment can stand on its own merits. Poverty and unemployment are indeed deeply troubling economic problems. They can indeed be attributed to some extent (though not entirely) to the historic oppression and dispossession of a majority of South Africans. They are very much worth a continuation of the struggle ethos.
“You can lock us up. … We will see economic freedom from prison,” he added, deftly invoking the halo of Mandela. This flourish hints at the rhetorical skill he commands. And he needs it, because by “economic freedom” he does not mean the same thing most everyone else does.
Freedom, in common English usage, means the absence of coercion. You are free if nobody – and especially no government – can lawfully impose on your person or property without your consent.
As Bloom correctly puts it, “Economic liberty is the freedom to produce, trade and consume any goods and services acquired without the use of force, fraud or theft. It requires free markets protected by the rule of law and entrenched property rights.”
He adds: “Various studies show that countries with higher economic freedom rank better on virtually every indicator of well-being. They have higher living standards, better health and less corruption.”
One of the most thorough papers on the subject is Hanke and Walters, Economic Freedom, Prosperity, and Equality: A Survey. It uses several widely-accepted measures of economic freedom, but notes that they all have the following in common:
- Secure rights to property (legally acquired);
- Freedom to engage in voluntary transactions, inside and outside a nation's borders;
- Freedom from governmental control of the terms on which individuals transact; and
- Freedom from governmental expropriation of property (eg, by confiscatory taxation or unanticipated inflation).
A review of such studies by John Hanson starts by saying: “That economic freedom promotes affluence is Adam Smith’s most important principle.”
Malema, deliberately or otherwise, confuses the two. When he says “economic freedom”, he means “affluence” itself, rather than merely its most reliable cause.
He argues that because poverty and unemployment remain disproportionately borne by the recently liberated black majority, the youth of today must make it the over-arching fight of their generation to attain “economic freedom”.
It is true that the facts of his case are misleading. When he cites black ownership of South Africa's assets, for example, he typically points to black ownership of JSE-listed companies. He does not count institutional investors, by far the biggest capital owners on the JSE, even though many of their members, through unions, pension funds and insurance policies, are black. He does not consider state-owned enterprises and government-owned land to be “black-owned”, although under Apartheid he would most certainly have called them “white-owned”. He does not recognise the vast informal economy, which thrives largely because government is unable to suppress it through licensing, tax and regulation.
He discounts the rise of the black middle class. He ignores the fact that it is neither necessary nor desirable for everyone to be investors, just like we needn't all be doctors, or engineers, or inventors, or shopkeepers.
These may not be minor quibbles, but they won't be heard in the face of Malema's over-arching allegation: many blacks remain poor compared to many whites. This is impossible to dispute. It does not matter how simplistic this view is, or how unhelpful it is as a guide to economic policy. It rings true, and that is enough for a discontented audience to accept Malema's answer as a clarion call by a brave, revolutionary leader.
That clarion call, the term “economic freedom” itself, is Malema's biggest fallacy. It may be made deliberately in order to mislead, or mistakenly because of never having studied economics, but it is patently false.
By “economic freedom”, Malema means nationalisation. He means expropriation. He means redistribution of wealth. He means the exact opposite of the four principles cited by Hanke and Walters.
Malema says “economic freedom”, in order to whip up his audience for a revolutionary fight. But he means “economic slavery”, in which the property produced by one person is taken from them by force and given to another, perhaps on a basis no stronger than the colour of their skin.
There is, of course, no merit in his call for revolutionary redistribution, but that is an argument for another day. It suffices to note Hansen's ominous warning about “the potential for anti-market and anti-reform elements to exploit economic adversity”.
Whatever the merits of his political agenda, Malema ought to be honest: he is not calling for “economic freedom” by any definition of the phrase. We, the lovers of freedom, should resent the appropriation and perversion of these words by a socialist revolutionary.
Whenever Malema says “economic freedom,” he ought to be challenged, clearly, loudly and directly. His propaganda ought not to be effective, because it is not true. DM
- Fracking: Debating a big deal
- Who needs the Queen’s English?
- Electric cars: Taking from the poor to give to the rich
- Business Licensing Bill: An indefensible defence
- Red-tape tourism
- The Big Business Bribery Bill
- On Thatcher and society, Vavi and the market
- Extinction: Let’s make up numbers and panic!
- Feeding the world is getting easier
- Stop talking shit: Build your own toilet
- Climate change is pseudo-science
- Anti-competitive competition law
- The Department of Less Government
- An open letter to President Zuma
- In defence of Kim Kardashian
- The world’s weirdest wildlife sanctuary
- Boycott calls are simple-minded
- In defence of vegans
- The population explosion implodes
- Environmental backpedalling picks up pace
- How Mangaung can help and hinder entrepreneurs
- The elusive libertarian enclave
- The Gathering: Ivo Vegter
- The hidden overemployment crisis
- The case for constructive environmentalism
- Privatise the Western Cape's shacks
- Tenders: Not open to employees or their families
- Hurricanes fuel climate sensationalism
- Next: Gross-out warnings on food
- No new deal: The failure of Zumanomics
- Benoni has a bright idea
- Was I wrong about acid rain?
- Public food gardens: Where dumb ideas thrive
- Rethinking the costly food label madness
- Give hunting a chance
- Fracking gets green light, but here's the risk
- Socialists, bless 'em, visit Cape Town
- Buy a 1Time ticket now
- Give the ANC credit where credit is due
- The myth of the competent apartheid government
- It's a disaster that 'peak oil' is not a disaster
- No Gravy: a label for sustainable business
- This lightbulb's going to blow
- Smokers? Get 'em up against the wall!
- Inflating the obesity scare
- Bring a Shotgun to School Day
- GMOs: Hacking genes to feed the world
- The hidden dangers of charity
- Fracking: the unread paper debated
- Fracking: The “U-turn” paper nobody has read
- Eco-cronyism is as dangerous as any other
- SKA: Be grateful Karoo residents didn't object
- Energy: Get cracking on fracking
- Fair trade, unfair trade-off
- Casual labour is only bad for Vavi's unions
- 'Externalities', the catch-all justification for regulation
- 'Externalities', the catch-all justification for regulation
- How do we fix our dismal education?
- Barter: the rebirth of sound money
- Rights are not entitlements
- Debunking 'limits to growth' inanities
- Tax: Why align with "most other countries"?
- Newspaper sensationalism doesn't help rhinos
- Rolling Stone reprises Gasland's fracking fantasies
- Cosatu's manipulative march move
- Why do 16 million people not constitute an economy?
- The age of smear politics
- Does fracking cause earthquakes?
- The Chinese model is morbidly obese
- Green tech: doubling down on a losing bet
- Rape, pornography, and hell's grannies
- Petrol taxes won't hurt the poor
- Jailtime mooted for bad weather warnings
- Let's ban bans, and start with CITES
- In defence of overpaid sport stars
- On the death of Kim Jong-Il
- COP17: Let's ban fire
- Cancer gets you when nothing else can
- COP17: The 'party on' agenda
- COP17: The Blue Line of Death
- New seven natural inanities
- Occupiers' anger is all that makes sense
- The Luddites and Technocrats live on
- Malema marches for economic slavery
- Profitable purveyors of pudendal prettiness
- Sense? Us?
- If they want rhino horn, let's sell them some
- "Stimulate" economy by ending telco abuses
- Executive pay makes nobody poorer
- Malema's real persecution
- Mogoeng: Lock up your daughters
- Don't mandate insurance, deregulate healthcare
- I sympathise with Malema's persecution complex
- Short selling: panicked pols ban proof of failure
- Don't blame those who saw it coming
- What's obscene about profit?
- In defence of Bombela
- Dear president Zuma, you are not above the law
- The economics of love
- Treasure the Karoo? Ban the SKA!
- Malema is right, you know
- Gautrain's PPP: political patronage profiteering
- Kumi Naidoo is no hero
- LeadSA fails to lead when it matters
- No logo means carte blanche
- The drug war: dopey but dangerous
- A response to fracking critics
- Don't vote. It's your right.
- Welcome Walmart
- If you're happy and you know it clap your hands
- Buy local, support poverty
- Ubuntu, the free-market way
- Karoo fracking scandal exposed!
- I'm ashamed for my profession
- The bill of bunkum
- Being gay: a brand new concept!
- Who's afraid of the nuclear wolf?
- The nationalisation canard
- Ogilvy should grow a spine
- The new robber barons
- A classy revolution: Why we cared
- Bombastic Bombela balks
- Liberty is more than mere democracy
- Gautrain has a law unto itself
- The irony of 'services for all'
- How to hire a hitman in SA
- Arrive alive and neurotic
- The oppression of taxis
- Protection of Information Bill and why WikiLeaks is so dangerous
- Fifa, Russia and Qatar deserve each other
- One day, we'll all hate WikiLeaks
- The cycling mafia strikes again
- What Julius got for Christmas
- Let's return the beads
- Away with fascist seat belt laws
- Tintin Mbeki in the Sudan
- How the ANC can make everyone happy
- Currency: the race to the bottom.
- Hurrah for national healthcare!
- Give Zimbabweans citizenship
- Carte Blanche has no carte blanche
- That finger-licking, lip-smacking taste
- Bomb the barbaric lot already
- Green tax: another raid is coming
- Do strikers deserve anything?
- The media will lose this battle
- Global warmism needs a fisking
- A glass half-full
- Go ahead, have a baby
- Stop the handouts - end xenophobia
- The right to fire
- FIFA's heart of darkness
- Have some self-respect
- I ordered an orange skirt
- Secretly, Match blames South Africa
- The stupendous Gautrain: a rare marvel!
- The Fifa conquistadors are coming!
- What's wrong with everyone?
- Leave poor BP alone
- The destructive power of government
- The bonsai economy
- The darkness of Africa
- Who is ripping off whom?
- Anatomy of a whitewash
- While FIFA takes over, we fight
- The pointless pretence of Earth Hour
- Ten reasons to reject climate alarmism
- Really, boycott the FIFA farce
- The climate dominoes fall
- Lessons in ethics from Dick Cheney
- Screw the consumer
- In defence of bankers
- Break the banking cartel
- Julius Malema, the walking contradiction
- Boycott FIFA
- Climate clarity
- In defence of Boney M
- Pray Copenhagen fails
- Capitalism is not unkind
- Climate fraud kills people
- Pop goes the hot air balloon
- Peace, love and schadenfreude
- The irony of the left
- Too late to cool it?
- Going cold turkey